The Des Moines Register
Monday, December 16, 1996, Page 6A

The Register's Readers Say

Flimsy case for legalized pot

        The Dec. 5 Register editorial "Marijuana: What's the Fuss?" uses anecdotal evidence to make its flimsy case for the legalization of pot.  It is unwise and irresponsible to suggest that doctors should have the right to "prescribe" marijuana without scientific evidence that smoking marijuana can provide relief for a medical condition.
        It has never been scientifically demonstrated that marijuana can treat a disease or relieve a patient's symptoms.  In fact, the scientific and medical communities have overwhelmingly rejected this notion.
        The American Medical Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the American Glaucoma Society, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and the American Cancer Society have all rejected marijuana's so-called medicinal use.  These organizations have done this not because they lack compassion, but because sound medical research does not validate the outlandish claims of the legalization movement.
        Even if we were to agree that smoking marijuana can ease the suffering of a person, it does not mean that pot is the only solution or even the best one.  The side effects of marijuana, both to the user and society, make pot an inferior alternative to nearly every accepted treatment.
        The voters of California and Arizona passed "medicinal marijuana" referendums last month based on misinformation similar to what The Register printed.  A patient may, as stated in the editorial, receive similar benefits from the prescription drug Marinol and smoking pot.
        However, these substances do not represent the entire universe of drugs that are available.  The Register should be ashamed of its willingness to ignore scientific research, the side effects of smoking marijuana, and the fact that there are many safer and more appropriate drugs available on the market.
        I have little doubt that the people cited in The Register's editorial claim to have benefited from their ability to smoke marijuana, but these assertions alone are not enough to change public policy.  Until it is scientifically proven that marijuana is an effective medical treatment, its side effects can be reduced, or that there are no other acceptable alternatives, we should reject the dangerous precedent that the voters of Arizona and California were duped into passing.
        -- Graham Gillette,
        505 Fifth Ave., Des Moines.